Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 PS2 Review
Whereas the original Shin Megami Tensei series is largely all darkness and misery, the spin-off series Persona, is Shin Megami on anti depressants that aren’t functioning correctly, so to speak. With its light-hearted sense of humour and enthusiastic J-pop soundtrack it’s certainly more jolly and upbeat, but still has its demons (in the true sense of the word) and darkness, and this time plenty of shooting in the head.
Persona 3 follows the story of an unnamed teenager (it’s your job to name him) a new recruit to a seminal Japanese high school, who soon learns that there’s more to this school than meets the eye. It actually doubles up as a secret demon slaying business (known only to those with strange powers, of which your character possesses), who work their magic in the “dark hour”, an extra hour in the day that regular people are oblivious to. The opening moments of the game are stunning, courtesy of some lovely anime sequences that are so wonderful, that it’s almost a shame when you’re required to pick up the controller and actually play the thing. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll soon forget this and have a whale of a time playing the game, because Persona 3 is a good one.
The game is essentially a quirky concoction of adolescent life and more traditional dungeon trawling.
By day you might be answering questions in class, which if answered correctly, will give you a handy stat boost to your academics, or after school hours you might sing a bit of karaoke to raise your bravery, or go to a coffee shop to raise your charm. All stats of which will assist you in making new friends.
Friends are an important facet of Persona 3 as making them will allow you to create stronger Personas (of which I’ll get to a bit later on) and will open up some surprisingly engaging mini storylines.
All the dungeon crawling, fighting and treasure seeking occurs at the aforementioned dark hour and usually sees you traversing Tartarus, a gargantuan tower. Since you’ll be doing so, late at night, all this fighting begins to take a toll on your party, eventually tiring them out, decreasing their stats and thus making them a less effective force when it comes to combat. Once this happens, it’s usually for the best to head back to your dorm for rest before their condition further deteriorates, so be nice.
The combat system is essentially the press turn battle system that has been featured in many Shin Megami games. As always, you’re encouraged to exploit the enemies weaknesses (your support characters analysis ability is an absolute godsend) which will reward you an additional turn to play with, and doing so to every enemy in any given battle will allow you to use an all out attack, a comic book esque attack which sees the entire party attacking every one of them in tandem, resulting in great damage. Unlike the vast majority of RPGS, you only take charge of the main hero, whilst the rest of your party are commanded by the competent AI, though it’s rather harsh to see the game over screen, when just your character hits the deck. Why they can’t revive you, like you have done them is a mystery.
Personas are a very important aspect of combat and are basically creatures that you are able to summon in battle and the only method by which you can chuck magic spells. Using their abilities, will result in the character somewhat disturbingly shooting themselves in their noggins. Visiting the “velvet room” will allow you to combine personas (either two or three) to create new, more powerful creatures, which are able to even inherit some of their parents abilities, that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to learn and if you have made the right friends, they’ll receive a handy experience bonus upon their birth. This creation process is about as accessible as could be and is without the trial and error aspect that other Shin Megami games have suffered from.
Lacking its virtual socializing, Persona’s otherwise well executed facets of dungeon exploration and incessant fighting, could very well have grown somewhat monotonous over time. But with all aspects tossed into the blender, it all comes together beautifully well, producing something of a great standard and perhaps one of the legendary PS2’s last gems.